Q: Wait wha?
This is basically me jumping on the season preview/season impression posts bandwagon that basically contains just about every other aniblogger except me. Since I’m actually checking out the entire spectrum of shows with my housemate nowadays I figured it’s finally time.
Picture the entire season’s offerings swirling around in a state of interminable chaos in your feral brain. Now picture fishing a number of shows out of that mess and pinning it up neatly – marking them for further exploration and investigation. That’s making brainmarks, and that’s what this post does for you. As a bonus I even rank them. And yes, I like inventing words (remember photoogling?).
Q: Aren’t you just jelly about Blogsuki’s aptly named “Thin-slicing” posts?
Why not at all. Whoever gave you that idea? *whistle*
Q: Uh okay. So basically any show that appears here is great, and any that doesn’t sucks?
Well, no- maybe. Lousy shows obviously won’t show up here, but I may give shows that use mostly recycled material/strategies a pass as well, even if they are relatively well done and entertaining. Conversely, not so well executed shows that do something interesting or that show potential for interesting development may show up, but there is of course no guarantee those won’t go quickly to the shitpits. Basically the most relevant metric here is “potential interestingness”.
Q: Jason moofang’s fuzzy definition of interestingness you mean
Q: Shouldn’t this really be called “Jason moofang’s guttural nearly-arbitrary ranking of nearly arbitrarily selected shows” then?
Fine, be that way.
Brainmark #6: Kami-sama Dolls
I think Summer 2011 is a pretty plentiful season as far as potential goes. Whether or not it turns out to be a great time will depend heavily on whether or not shows like Kami-sama Dolls deliver on the little bits of juiciness scattered across its premise. To be honest I’m a little afraid to hold my breath here. I very nearly dropped Kami-sama Dolls from this list after a severely underwhelming second episode. There is however some potential in the set up. The mech designs are reminiscent of the Angels of Eva, and combined with the heavy spiritual association may suggest that they are more than what they seem. They are even named dolls, and the implications of this can be a fun thing to play with if the identity of these mechs become a prominent plot point. This overlayed over a spunky loli with confidence and stubbornness issues and her overprotective aniki who had deliberately ran away from his identity and who had once been associated with the same doll could lead to some nice character dynamics and development. If jabs of ethical philosophy ever start subtly coming into play, that would likely be when this show’s existence on this list is justified.
UPDATE: well the show ended up diving into some weakly executed drama and seems to be attempting to get by with some flashy robot battles and shounen-ish, facepalm-inducing angst. I am disappoint! Dropped -_-
Brainmark #5: Kami-sama no Memo Chou
If you thought Gosick was a goldmine of potential destroyed by the sludge of unpleasant textbook villains, occasional ruinously bad dialogue and essentially nonexistent character development, well, Kami-sama no Memo Chou may be a second chance. Alice and Victorique are uncannily similar – both locked up in their own little world with their amazing intellect and both sporting an equally commanding serious-mode and an equally disarming pout-mode. There however appears to be a key motivational difference. Victorique had always been a pawn of larger forces at play, forces which she struggles against, and thus her motivations tend to be situational. Her detective work is often employed onto a problem into which she finds herself thrown. Alice on the other hand seems to be truly removed, and is thus in a way a master of her own destiny – there is no one she needs to answer to save for herself. I think this is the true implication of the “NEET detective” title, even though, as some people have pointed out, they appear to be enterprising small business owners.
A detective is fundamentally the Speaker of the Deceased
We dig out the lost words from the bottom of the graves
Harm the living to protect the honor of the dead
And disgrace the dead to comfort the living.
Investigation that does not care about what it finds, investigation for it’s own sake, rather than as a means to an end. It is an intriguing idea I think, and one that could make a decidedly delighting show if explored deftly. As a bonus, there appears to be no primary villain in this show, but a more Durarara-esque mesh of multi-directional motivations. And also, the main guy doesn’t look quite as terribad as Kujo… yet.
Brainmark #4: Dantalian no Shoka
On paper there isn’t a lot to write home about in this show. None of the magical ideas are novel and the setting of finding a spunky and pretty female who turns out to be more than meets the eye is more or less staple in the realms of anime by now. Where Dantalian no Shoka shines is in its execution. This may not be Gainax’s best animation work, but the quality of the directing and the immaculate and inspired BGM-visual synchrony really made this show feel amazing. And you know what? The truth of the matter is that the “unlocking of magical powers” idea was never the problem with the endless tired repetitions of shows relying on it, at least for folks like me. The problem is more often than not with execution – with attention to detail. Notice in the climatic scenes of episode one that the sounds of the physical events faded discreetly away leaving the violin and piano glissandos to accompany the swirling magicks on screen. Magic isn’t just about looking flashy – Gainax’s portrayal gave the magic a satisfying sense of potency, ancientness and enigma, and that left me pretty moved.
(and somewhat appalled, I suppose, by the fact that the scene I had just witnessed could really have been summarised as “Man pulls ancient tome from loli’s chest at an opportune moment and defeats dragon by reading said book”).
I’m actually pretty optimistic about this show. As noted, it isn’t even all that smart and really it doesn’t quite need to be too smart – it mostly just needs to keep doing what its doing.
Bonus: Main guy is pretty aptly voiced by Ono Daisuke and is pretty darned competent. Bonus2: Main girl speaks in old-ish accent that I perhaps somewhat inappropriately find attractive. I blame Horo.
Brainmark #3: Ikoku Meiro no Croisee
Reason 1 to watch this show: Yune. Reason 2 to watch this show: Paris. Reason 3? I wrote a thousand-word post on the first episode. Need I say more?
Brainmark #2: Mawaru Penguindrum
This is a delightfully intriguing show, in large part because it’s just so hard to pin down. Episode one began with the exposition of Himari’s predicament in a storm of angst, and then smoothly transitioned into a light-hearted slice-of-life depicting the sibling’s lives, and then tumbles headlong into Himari’s sudden death. And before the ensuing angst even settles the show quickly flings itself into an incredulous spiral of bewildering events, as the hat and the penguins are tossed on screen and stuffed into our faces and underscored for good measure with an outrageous and elaborate henshin sequence. Wow, this show changes moods so frequently it’s insane and yet so liquidly it’s masterful. Even the visuals are stylish and somewhat idiosyncratic. See how the stickmen you usually find on toilet doors prowl the streets:
Quite the ride so far really. Frankly I have no idea where this is going, but the heady chaos has been a delicious enough one so far that I’m totally psyched to find out more.
Brainmark #1: Usagi Drop
Production IG rolls out a quiet and exceedingly tasteful show about a man adopting the illegitimate child of his grandfather – his six-year-old aunt, as peculiar as that sounds. There is a lot to like about this show: the somewhat minimalistic art style, the gradual shift from sparse watercolors to detailed shades and shadows as the show progresses, the aptly done BGM, the well animated characters. Gluing the entire experience together is an immaculate pacing and a beautiful economy of words. So much is told in the quiet moments of the episode, through meaningful glances, through underscoring Rin’s speechlessness and general detachment, through following her as she wanders her way around the house without anybody sparing her a glance, through contrasting her existence with that of the noisy kid Reina. Rin also wields a quiet, introverted sort of cuteness that rivals Ikoku’s Yune in potency, while Daikichi is clumsy yet connected enough to his new little charge to make a likable lead we can cheer on. Everything about this show just fits together so seamlessly, pleasantly, yet movingly. In many ways Usagi Drop is the perfect opposite of Mawaru Penguindrum. Both are perhaps nigh equal in enjoyability and potential, but I have a perhaps stronger love for quiet subtlety, tasteful poignancy and deep character exploration. And going by what I’ve seen so far, Usagi Drop may just be poised to deliver convincingly on all three fronts.
By the way, yes I’ve seen some semi-spoilerish comments about the eventual direction of the Usagi Drop manga. I have deliberately left that out of consideration here. An anime production can be quite distinct from its source, so I say let Production IG roll their thing, and we’ll see what happens.
Honorable Mention: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni
Frankly, this isn’t a very “interesting” show, and thus its absence from the brainmarks list. It is still a pretty darn entertaining show though, and if you need any further convincing, let me just drop you a friendly reminder here that Kirishima Shouko-sama is in this show.
Prepare your offerings nao.